Supreme Court Travel Ban Ruling Raises New Inbound Tourism Concerns

By Steven B. Richer, CTP

An unsigned ruling by the United States Supreme Court last month to implement part of the Executive Orders issued by President Trump has created new questions about travel to the United States.

A more comprehensive ruling is anticipated when the fall session of the Supreme Court begins in October.  In the meantime, travel from the six targeted countries–Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen–can only gain entry if they have close relatives awaiting them or are enrolled in an American university.

The Administration is defining close relatives as siblings, parents, children, sons or daughters-in-law, and finances.  Grandparents, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins do not qualify.

This policy is seen as a victory by the Trump Administration, which has called its Executive Orders “travel bans”, even though its legal team has steered away from that nomenclature in its arguments.  It is not clear if the next ruling will be more or less restrictive, especially since there is new doubt about whether Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, the most consistent “swing” member of the Supreme Court, will choose to retire before the fall session.

More importantly, however, the visa granting practices of the Administration seem to be telling a story that acquiring a visa is becoming more challenging from many countries, not just the six listed in the Executive Orders.  While most of these reports on visa challenges are anecdotal at best, it affords international inbound operators the opportunity to document whether there has been a change in the ease of U. S. visa acquisition, based on current business information.

Along those same lines, the International Inbound Travel Association has just sent out a survey to operators to measure the impact of the travel ban on inbound tours.  Two questions in the survey are travel ban specific.  There is a third question open to other comments.

Please respond to the survey and, if appropriate, use the third question to report any information you have on visa acquisition challenges or even changing market interest in visiting the United States.  Any information will be extremely helpful in addressing changes that happen on visas, including working to draft and support legislation which improves any unjustified security measures should there be any in the opinion of our operator members.

It is anticipated that the visa issue–a subset of basic freedom to travel–and the continuation of funding for Brand USA will be the biggest items on the agenda of the travel industry for the remainder of 2017 and continuing into the next year.

International inbound tour operators have major information on both of these issues, due to their roles in servicing the inbound travelers to the United States.  Being prepared with as much specific feedback as possible will position IITA to assist the broader travel industry in its advocacy on these matters moving ahead.